Google reviews do not require verification or approval before someone posts them. You can flag reviews from within your Google My Business account to alert Google support of an issue, but you cannot actually remove them yourself.
Customers leave reviews based on their experience. Google’s mission is to provide accurate information to its users, so you can’t just remove reviews without their approval.
How do You Flag a Google Review?
Before you flag a post, there are a few things you should ask yourself from Google’s policy:
- Is the review accurate, did the incident described occur?
- Am I just removing the review because it’s a bad review?
- Have I tried reconciling the situation with the reviewer?
- Is it a he-said vs. she-said situation?
What Makes Google Remove a Review?
Google wants to keep the integrity of their reviews, so they won’t just remove it because it’s a bad review. There needs to be a valid reason for it to be taken down.
To remove a Google review follow these instructions:
- Find your business on Google Maps
- Click on your reviews
- Click the 3 vertical dots and select “flag as inappropriate”
If you need to escalate the situation further, you can click the support button, found at the bottom of the page on your Google My Business home. If the review is considered slander and can be proven to be false, you can file a legal request with Google to remove the review.
Why Would a Business Flag a Review?
Today, the online image of a business is more important than ever before. Customers search for products, services and places online before making a purchase decision or transaction with companies. When doing their research, most customers will go through reviews online. As such, when your business receives a bad review, you will have to work hard to restore your reputation. The good news is that you can flag Google reviews if they violate Google’s review and photo policies.
Here are a few reasons why you would flag a review to defend your brand reputation:
Spam & Fake Content
A business can flag a review that contains incorrect details, as this may be considered fake content. A user may leave the same bad review for multiple locations of your business. Since it is unlikely that the client received the same experience in several of your branches, Google may remove the reviews from all the locations except one.
A review may also be regarded as fake if it contains inaccurate information such as the business name or the name of an employee. If it is proven that you have no employee by the name referenced in the review, Google will begin the process of removing the review.
Under Google’s guidelines, there is a category of Harassment and Bullying. If you receive a negative review that contains details of a person’s age, gender, religion, appearance or sexual orientation, you can flag it for possible removal. Google will investigate the case and remove the post if there are sufficient grounds.
You can flag reviews that feature obscene or profane language since this falls under offensive content. Once you report the issue, Google may blur the offensive words out so that other users do not get to read it. Google may then initiate the process of removing them from your Google My Business page.
Conflict of Interest
Your business can flag negative reviews that were posted by a person or party that wanted to manipulate your ratings. Negative reviews from your competition or current and former employees will be seen as a conflict of interest. You can flag such reviews so that Google removes them.
Apart from competitors and employees, other people may want to hurt your brand reputation. If you receive negative reviews from a single person with multiple profiles, reviews that contradict themselves or the same people give you a negative review while giving your competitors a nice one; this would be a reason to flag the reviews.
If a review does not pertain to a user’s experience with your business, it is considered irrelevant and will have broken Google’s guidelines. Your business can flag such a review as a way of protecting your brand reputation. By alerting Google, they will look into the matter and remove it.
What Steps Can I Take to Remove the Review?
Google reviews can affect your brand and business in a big way. Unfortunately, you cannot simply delete a Google review. Regardless of the nature of the review, it is important to follow the right steps to have it removed.
#1 Do Not Panic
Considering the negative impact that a bad or fraudulent review can have on your business and reputation, it is natural to get angry and frustrated. However, once you notice a negative review, you should try not to panic. Take a deep breath and calm down to keep a level head.
#2 Check Google’s Policies
You should only flag reviews that violate Google policies. Essentially, you should not flag reviews simply because you do not like them or disagree with them. Before removing any review, Google will have to determine that it violates the established guidelines. The search engine will not intervene in cases where customers and merchants disagree about facts.
#3 Evaluate the Situation
Once you have checked and understood the policy, you should find out whether the review is real. There are times when competitors or random people you have never met will maliciously post bad reviews about your business. It would be wise to check whether the reviewer is actually a customer.
#4 Respond to the Review
Regardless of whether the review is negative or fake, you should respond to it quickly. Make sure you respond kindly and nicely, avoid making it personal and keep your response brief and to the point. Prompt action will create the image of a business that is committed to customer service.
Click here to download our 25 Ways to Respond to Any Online Review guide.
#5 Flag or Dispute a Fake Review
If you establish that the review violates Google’s guidelines, you should proceed to flag it for removal. You can flag the review either in your account or in Google Maps. In this way, you will have asked for Google’s support in helping to protect your business and reputation.
#6 Report to Google Small Business Support
In case flagging the review does not get it removed or takes too long, you should consider reporting to Google Small Business Support. Reporting will expedite the process, allowing you to get back to focusing on how to grow your business.
If the review can be counted as false or slander, you will have the option of filling out a Google form for a legal removal request. However, you may want to work with a legal professional since the requirements in such cases are usually quite high.
How Long Will it Take Google to Review?
With a large number of businesses with Google My Business listings, Google is constantly going through requests for reviews to be removed. Once you have flagged a review as inappropriate, it may take several days for Google to remove it. As such, you will have to be patient as you give the team time to look into the matter and respond. The good news is that you will still have room to take additional steps in case Google does not remove the review after you have flagged it.
Generally, provided you present enough evidence to show that a certain review violates Google’s policy, the review can be removed. Google removes reviews depending on whether it violates the policy and not the number of times it gets flagged as inappropriate. As such, business owners also need to understand Google’s review and photo policy.
The best way to avoid negative reviews is to get your happy customers to leave a review on your page. There are several strategies that you can use to encourage customers to talk about their experiences. Working with a reliable reputation management company to help you make the most of customer reviews.
Bad reviews are a pain. Try not to take them personally. Click on the link for more in-depth information on removing fake reviews as well as how to ask customers to remove negative reviews. And if you need help with reputation management, click on the chat bubble below to speak with a digital marketing expert or click here to email us.